Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The first memoir is PROZAC DIARY by Lauren Slater (1999, Penguin)/ This description is a snapshot in time when she came for treatment as an adult written as a case study.

Lauren is a 26 year old, single, white, female who lives in Boston. She is a graduate of Barnard University. Lauren has been referred by her primary care physician for a recent and sudden emergence of compulsive symptoms. She complains of a nattering need to touch, count, check, and tap.’

When the social worker begins to talk with Lauren, she learns that Lauren has a long history of mental illness and that these new symptoms are overlayed on many years of feeling that she has a “hole in her soul.” Lauren has feelings of “emptiness.” She recalls feeling this way since she was as young as six or seven years old. She also expresses feeling invisible. She says that when she was growing up her mother put an alarm system in the house (to protect against the return of the Nazis) with many motion detectors; Lauren believed that, being invisible, she was unable to set them off. At 12 she says she was “thin, cutting, and knew nothing of pleasure.” Before age 12 Lauren was class president, leader of the band and considered herself to be a ‘brave girl.’

Lauren hears natural sounds repeat themselves in her head; her own voice, screeching of breaks, birds. She hears rushing and whirring. She has eight people living inside of her, although she claims to know that they are not real. Some of the people inside (the “blue baby” and the “girl in the glass case”) speak with her and are responsible for her journal writing and some of her creative writing, including this stanza from one of her poems:

Mother of many
Watch your children play
Hightailing across a field, leaving you
With nothing but a spray of snow.
So cup your hands and try to catch all that’s left
Of your children (pp. 45-46).

Lauren knows exactly when the “blue baby” entered her; it happened at the moment she ate a chocolate baby in elementary school. It was not clear how long the other people have been with her. Lauren fears losing them if she gets well.

Lauren has been hospitalized five times for depression and related problems; she was 14 when she was hospitalized for the first time. She describes depression as “stifling and comforting – like a blanket.” She has attempted suicide at least once. As an adolescent she was involved in self-mutilation, including cutting and anorexia. Lauren reports that she has not eaten a meal in years without anxiety. She has no history of drug or alcohol abuse.

Lauren claims that her mother and father both seem to have suffered from mental disorders. Her father, she says, is dysthymic and she describes him as “so sad.” Her mother was “intense,” emotionally distant and abusive. There is a reference to her forcing Lauren to drink detergent but Lauren cannot seem to articulate this clearly. She remembers her mother “screaming, screaming in the middle of the kitchen.” Her mother was afraid that the Nazis were going to return and come to her neighborhood; she made Lauren watch movies of Nazi concentration camps. Lauren reports that she never got along with her mother and that her mother said that the two of them clashed because they were the “most alike.” Lauren was the middle child of three girls and always considered herself to be “the bad girl.”

Lauren provided no additional information at all about her sisters and no current information about her mother or father. Their marriage dissolved when she was 11 years old and Lauren says she was fostered out as a young teen. Her parents were financially well off and even though she has had spotty employment, Lauren does not mention current financial hardship, so it appears as if she may be supported by her parents.

Lauren lives alone in a small, basement apartment. She reports that she has little furniture and that there have been centipedes crawling on the ceiling for years. She has few friends; she does not date. She spends her time reading philosophy and does some creative writing. Lauren has worked at a variety of menial jobs. She has either quit or been fired. She is currently unemployed.

The prospect of getting well scares Lauren because the world of illness is the one that she has known almost all of her life. However, she seems motivated to try to overcome this fear and work with a professional to overcome her symptoms.

Next posting: What is Lauren's DSM mental health disorder?


  1. I was wondering if there was more inforamtion on Lauren's family history? Was there an event or experience that triggered her behaviors at age 12?

  2. Thanks for being the first person to post, Brooke and good question about the trigger for her behaviors! The author doesn't name any specific event, but there usually is something that sets off depression.

    There is not much on her family history -- more on her mother than her father but not beyond them into the extended family.